Blackjack is, as everybody knows, one of the most popular casino games of them all. It’s been around for longer than anyone can remember and any casino worldwide will have their blackjack tables as some of their busiest and most intense spots.
What It Is and How It’s Played
Blackjack is a fairly simple card game, where the player goes head to head with the dealer to see who will have their hands come closer to reaching a total value of 21, without going over it.
It’s a game that uses “blind betting” in that you place your bets before a single card is played. Once bets are placed, each player is dealt a card face up, followed by the dealer doing the same for themselves. At most blackjack tables, except for those that use a “no peek” rule, a second card is dealt – face up for the players but face down for the dealer.
Each player then gets a chance to hit (get another card), stand (get no more cards), split (take a matching pair and split it into two new hands) or double (double the bet for one more card), depending on the cards they received. The dealer then reveals their own face-down card and plays until they reach any total value over 17 or go bust.
If a player or the dealer gets a 10-value card (a 10 or a picture card) and an ace, they have a “natural” or a “blackjack”. If the player has one and the dealer doesn’t, the player gets 1.5x or 2x back their bet (depending on the casino). If the dealer has a blackjack and the player doesn’t, then the player loses their bets immediately. If the dealer and the player have blackjacks, then it’s a push and the player immediately gets his or her original bet back.
How Many Decks and Cards Are Used
Blackjack was traditionally played on a single deck of cards, but that has long not been the case. The reason for this is simple: with a single deck, players can count the cards and work out the likelihood of which card they’re going to win next. This is the fairest play, but because so many players would win this way, it quickly became obvious that it’s not financially viable for casinos.
Card counting is, therefore, “illegal” in casinos – in that it’s a perfectly legal and smart thing to do, but it’s outlawed by casinos and if they catch you counting cards, they can and will immediately eject you, often without your winnings. It can actually still be done by the most talented mathematicians and statisticians even with multiple decks being in use at once, but those players are reasonably rare and they need to be very careful that it’s not obvious that they’re counting cards.
Blackjack is actually the main game in which counting cards can really act to your advantage, even as the “blind betting” system further minimizes the use of doing so, and to make doubly sure that most players simply cannot count cards, the vast majority of casinos use upwards of 8 decks of cards.
And at 52 cards a deck (no Jokers are used in blackjack), that leaves you with 416 possible cards with each turn in cases where 8 decks are used. Less or more can be used depending on the casino, but eight is the most common.
Nonetheless, it’s worth remembering that 10-value cards actually make up 16 out of the 52 cards in each and every deck, so if you’re wondering which card you’re likely to draw next, it’s a fair assumption – though certainly no guarantee – that your next card will be worth 10. Which is why, in some cases, it’s worth standing even when your hand reaches 12 points in value!